Grief & loss

Feelings and reactions to loss

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What are typical reactions to grief?

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Some common experiences when grieving are:

  • not feeling yourself
  • changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • physical pain
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • preoccupation with the deceased or the circumstances of their death apathy or lack of enjoyment in normal activities
  • withdrawal from others
  • conflict in personal relationships
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • reliance on negative coping strategies including alcohol and drugs.


The following are some of the emotions you may experience whilst grieving. You will not necessarily experience all of these emotions and you may find that you experience waves of emotion that come and go at various times. The first few days following the death of a loved one will be particularly intense.

Common emotional responses are:

  • emptiness or feeling numb and devoid of emotion
  • disbelief that the person has died
  • confusion
  • intense sorrow and sadness
  • yearning or longing for the deceased
  • anger at ourselves or others including the person who died
  • relief
  • guilt or shame
  • exhaustion
  • loneliness and isolation
  • feeling that life is meaningless without the deceased
  • overwhelmed at having to cope
  • anxiety about the future
  • moments of happiness.

The experience of grief should not be confused with depression although there are some common symptoms between the two. If your grief persists for an extended period and prevents you from returning to normal activities, it is important to seek professional advice. While grieving is a normal process, depression is a mental illness which can be effectively managed with the right care. The sudden loss of a loved one can be a potential trigger for suicidal thoughts and feelings. It is important to be aware of this and to seek help if this happens.

Download our grief & loss factsheet.

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